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Purdue Football: What Does Success Look Like?

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NCAA Football: Northwestern at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

What Does Success Look Like?

This might be the most difficult question for Purdue football this season. If you measure success purely in the win / loss column, you’re going to be sadly disappointed and Jeff Brohm’s inaugural season will give you as much satisfaction as Darrell Hazell’s swan song. Joe Tiller enraged some in the fan base by talking about “managing expectations”. This season will be an exercise in managed expectations. Here is a few ways you could try to quantify success this season.

Bad Metrics:

Win / Loss:

As I mentioned, this is probably going to be the worst metric to judge Purdue. The Boilermakers will enter most contests with a decided talent deficit. Don’t get me wrong, Purdue does have some individually talented players, but simply don’t have enough of it, far enough down the roster, to win on a regular basis.

Essentially, Purdue can play its best game, and will still need a significant amount of help from the other team to win in most games. That’s the reality we are looking at, and if you can’t accept that reality, you’re in for a tough, frustrating season, and I recommend working on your golf game, painting the house, or playing with your kids on Saturday. Asking Purdue to win more than 2 or 3 games would be like asking my toddler to write her name. Sure, she’s got the general concept that marks on a paper mean something, and she might try real hard, but she’s just not quite there yet. This Purdue team in not quite there yet, regardless of effort.

Improvement:

What many are going to find frustrating, is there the potential that this team actually regresses during the season. This team is as thin as the few remaining hairs on top of my head, and any attrition at key positions will spell disaster. We may have to line up 6 or 7 linebackers at different positions on defense, because that is the only spot Purdue seems to have any depth. Gelen Robinson and Eddy Wilson have to stay health because honestly, at this point, there isn’t much behind them in terms of developed football talent.

Offense is a little better, but the offensive line has the potential to be an epic train wreck. Purdue is starting question marks at a few positions, and any injury could spell doom for the Boilermakers. If the starting talent is questionable, and the depth behind it is a riddle wrapped in an enigma and surrounded by a mystery. Maybe it’s better than I think, maybe it’s worse, it’s impossible to tell.

It’s great to expect the team to be better at the end of the year than at the beginning, and I certainly expect to see individual progress, but unless everything breaks just right, the talent on this team may drop off perceptively as the season progresses. Fingers crossed for a reasonable season in terms of injuries.

Better Metrics:

Recruit Retention:

It’s going to be a rough season, anything other than that expectation is unfounded, but can the Brohm staff hold together this recruiting class, especially at the top, while losing football games? We know that Brohm and staff is selling opportunity above all else, and opportunity will be obvious as the season progresses, but I also expect Purdue to get blown out in a few games, and I expect they will be playing in front of small, disinterested crowds once the season wears on, and the fans hoping for a Brohm miracle lose hope.

This recruiting class is vital, and if it can come in above 60th nationally, I’ll consider it an amazing feat. If it can make it into the top 10 of the Big10, we should all pop some champagne and start naming all new family dogs Brohm.

Purdue isn’t going to have a coaching talent problem, but they are going to have a depth and talent problem. That will only improve incrementally over the next few years, but we’re going to have to be patient. The coaching staff may be able to steal a few games when other teams don’t show up, but if they can get the talent and depth trending up over the next few years, the wins / losses folks might finally get a respite.

Enjoyment:

No one likes watching losing football, but a Purdue Hazell game was like going to a funeral in the rain. Brohm and company may not win many games this year, but I hope Purdue ends up being Texas Tech bad. Texas Tech hasn’t put up any big seasons recently, but man, their games, if nothing else, are entertaining. I think Purdue can make it to Texas Tech bad.

Offense:

Blough is an exciting quarterback who is more than willing to put the ball in the air, and Brohm is an exciting coach who is more than willing to put the ball in the air. Now, I won’t guarantee the ball won’t end up in the wrong hands, but it’s going to be flying around the field. If, and this is a big if, Purdue finds something on the offensive line, the running back position could be a real strength, and again, Brohm has a few interesting schemes to pick up yards in the running game as well.

Defense:

The “death by 1,000 cuts” defense is out the door. Holt will either come back with his or on it. He’s going to send pressure and his defense is getting off the field...one way or the other. Purdue is going to give up some big plays this year, but Holt will stick with his guns. It might be frustrating for some people, but I would much rather give up an 5 play 80 yard drive than a 17 play, 15 minute drive, 80 yard drive that Purdue has become infamous for in recent years.

Special Teams:

Purdue’s special teams have been...meh...at best. That will change under coach Levine, who is one of the best, and most creative in the business. He will be fully authorized generate points and possessions on special teams. Don’t head to the bathroom when the special teams hit the field, because it’s possible you might miss the most exciting play of the game.

Special Metric:

Attendance:

Can Brohm and company generate enough excitement to spark a fire in a bruised, battered, and generally apathetic fan base? As I mentioned, the “if they’re not winning, I’m not coming” crowd is probably a lost cause, but can he pull in the casual fan that just didn’t see Purdue football as a worthwhile expenditure of their entertainment dollar, regardless of the ticket price? If he can win over the locals, and bring in people interested in Purdue football that don’t have to break the bank or spend an entire day getting to and from the game, I’ll consider it a win. Hazell lost the people that actually wanted to go to games. I don’t think that will be an issue with Brohm. I don’t think attendance will be good, but we’re just shooting for “good”, we’re shooting for “not depressing” this season. I think we can get there.